Costa Rica

High School


Semester — Spring 2020
  $11,900   Available
Year — Spring 2020
  $14,500   Available
Year — Spring 2019
Feb 12-15, 2019 → Jan 13-16, 2020
  $14,500   Contact Us
Semester — Spring 2019
Feb 12-15, 2019 → Jul 15-18, 2019
  $11,900   Contact Us
Year — Fall 2019
Jul 23-26, 2019 → Jun 8-11, 2020
  $16,700   Available
Semester — Fall 2019
Jul 23-26, 2019 → Jan 13-16, 2020
  $12,500   Available

*Departure dates may vary within a few days of those listed.


With its tropical climate, fresh food, and relaxed lifestyle, Costa Rica is an enchanting place to discover a new culture. By living with a host family and attending a local high school, you’ll get an inside look at this idyllic society. Let the country whose national saying is “Pura Vida” (“pure life”) show you how to take time and appreciate the good things. You’ll be much more than a tourist dropping in for a few days and sticking to the well-trod attractions; this year or semester program will give you the opportunity to eat, drink, and breathe Costa Rican culture, to learn the language and get to know the people.

Things to know

Costa Ricans call themselves ticos, and you’ll often hear them demonstrate their national pride by describing something as “muy tico,” or “very Costa Rican.” Ticos are generally happy and easy-going, so you’re likely to get along with most people you meet. Ticos also tend to be very expressive; you can expect your host family to greet you with enthusiastic hugs and kisses on the cheek. Unlike most other Spanish speakers, people in Costa Rica use the formal version of the word "you" (usted), even when addressing close friends.

Your journey to Costa Rica

Arriving in San José

Your journey to Costa Rica will begin in New York City or Miami where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. Together you’ll attend an overnight orientation, and then travel to San José where you’ll be met by AFS staff and volunteers.

Soon you’ll be ready to head to your community. Along the way you might pass volcanic peaks, cosmopolitan cities, or sun-soaked beaches. As you get closer to your new home, you’ll likely feel yourself being drawn in by friendly locals and the country’s general relaxed atmosphere. You might even smell some homemade food wafting out of the local soda, or Costa Rican diner, as the plato del dia (plate of the day) is carefully prepared.

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Meeting your host family

AFSers have lived all throughout Costa Rica, but you’ll most likely find yourself in an urban or suburban area. No matter where you stay, you’ll be within an hour or two of the coast and nearby some breathtaking natural beauty.

Communities in Costa Rica tend to be small, and most people enjoy gathering together to catch up on the local news and gossip. Costa Ricans are usually welcoming and family-oriented; you can expect to share lots meals with your host parents, host siblings, and extended family members.

See where past AFSers have lived
Costa Rica

Settling into daily life

Teenage life

Your social life in Costa Rica will probably revolve around sports (futból, or soccer, is the most popular) and going out with your friends. Tico and tica teenagers like to get together to watch movies, have picnics, or hang out in the park. Dancing is another favorite pastime, with people enjoying Latin dances like salsa, merengue, and cumbia, as well as the Costa Rican swing. Some popular music genres include calypso, reggae, and soca (a mixture of soul from the United States and calypso), as well as widespread North American hits. If any of your tica friends turn 15 during your time abroad, you might get the chance to attend a large party called a Quinceañera.

Food you'll encounter

Meals in Costa Rica generally involve some combination of rice and beans. You can enjoy fresh, locally grown bananas (Costa Rica is one of the largest producers of bananas in the world), mangos, pineapples, papayas, watermelons, and citrus fruits. Your typical breakfast might include gallo pinto (a mixture of rice and black beans), followed by casado (rice, beans, salad, meat, plantains, and sometimes eggs) for lunch. Because beef, chicken, pork, and fish are important parts of Costa Rican cuisine, vegetarianism is not very common. You’ll have the opportunity to taste some delicious traditional dishes like Olla de carne (beef stew with potatoes, onions, and vegetables), empanadas (pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables, or fruit), arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), and gallos (tortillas with meat and vegetable fillings).

Your high school

You can expect to attend a public school where you’ll wear a uniform like your Costa Rican peers. The academic year begins in mid-February and ends in early-December, meaning that your summer vacation will be around Christmas time. Classes usually start around 7 am with a snack break around noon. Depending on the school, the end of the day could be anywhere from 1 to 4:30 pm. In some places, a portion of the students attend class in the morning while the rest go in the afternoon. Because most studying is done at school, you probably won’t have too much homework, giving you plenty of free time to learn about Costa Rican culture through firsthand experience.

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Returning Home

"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.

Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.

Meet the people who will be supporting you in Costa Rica

Raul, AFS Costa Rica Staff Raul
Camilo, AFS Costa Rica Volunteer Camilo
Jahel, AFS Costa Rica Volunteer Jahel

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